One of the benefits of fitness endeavors and athletics, at least those that truly challenge us, lie not only in the physiological realm, but also in the psychological arena. There is a tremendous amount of personal mental fortitude that is needed and developed through hard, sustained efforts. For the vast majority of people, many of the workouts are forays into areas of ability they never knew they had. This little “trip through the wires” leads to not only an increase in strength and athletic capacity, but also increases the athlete’s ability to realize what is possible, then push through it. As with any adaptation phase, you recover and grow and build upon those efforts. What seemed “impossible” becomes easy. This translation of increased mental fortitude tranfers itself to future physical endeavors and life challenges. The attitude becomes, “If I can do that, then everything else is easy and that task won’t be that hard!”
I remember the first time as a young cyclist I rode 100 miles. Once it was over, the realization of what I had done had broken down walls and opened doors to other challenges. Everything else paled in comparison. Much like a marathon runner, a daring skier, soldier going “down range”, a fireman heading into an inferno, or anyone else tackling a effort that balances delicately on injury, death, near exhaustion, fear and other somewhat daunting prospects, once those tasks are successfully completed, everything else is a walk in the park. To this day, I thank the mental toughness I gained as a cyclist and athlete for my current abilities at work and at play. “Is that all you got? Bring it on….”
I don’t care if my athletes don’t care to use their fitness capabilities in an athletic arena outside of the gym, the fact remains that they are stronger on several fronts then they were before. I’ve seen people who don’t wish to be competitive find the hardest decisions to make in their personal lives to be much easier because they “know they can”. That’s a beautiful thing. For those that do push their fitness gained in the CrossFit gym out onto the playing field, they find that the hard work done indoors makes their other tasks that much easier. In short, we aim to build winners, no matter what the challenge may be.
The attitude and thought process of “winner” is never ending. You cannot let self doubt or weakness prevail and when it does wish to rear it’s ugly head in the form of quitting, easing up or adopting a defeatist attitude, you must recover, recollect and beat it back. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you finish, it matters if you finish. And when you finish, that attitude must remain.
With the prevalence of MMA fighting proliferating the media these days, we have all seen a fight somewhere where one athlete undoubtedly got his ass handed to him by another, but still had the self-respect to raise his hands in the universal symbol of victory as he walked to his corner at the end of the bout. Some call it stupid, some may call it arrogance, however that depends on the manner of how the athlete portrays his “personal victory” at the end. Nonetheless, that fighter did not give up during or after the fight and never accepted a defeatist attitude. That fighter never lied down, which leads me to my point.
CrossFit is unbelievably hard sometimes. Workouts that push you to and past your previous extensions of ability. So, when those WOD’s are over, it is not uncommon to “crash n’ burn” and wait for the room to stop spinning, the lungs to stop burning, your vision to return and recognize you can stand up and continue to function. Now, the following is a personal thing and my personal opinion only of which I will not forcefully impart upon my clients, but I make all attempts to never lie down after a hard effort. I am just putting this out there as something to think about.
My thought is that lying down is a form of defeat. I know physiologists have proven that recovery is enhanced in a prone position versus a standing position, but I’ll be damned if I am going to get in a fight while at work, then go lie down on the grass to catch my breath and recover in full uniform in front of God and country once the bad guy’s in custody. In all reality, I would be on my feet walking it off, or hands on my knees catching my breath – and yes, it’s I’ve been down that road more than a few times. I’ve regained my composure, cleaned up, straightened up my uniform and walked out with command presence. Unless there’s blood pouring out of a wound, a serious injury or you are dead or dying, get on your feet.
I am not saying some workouts haven’t put me on my back. I’ve been there and there are pics to prove it, but after a moment of clarity I’ve jumped up and moved around. I have changed my views and it’s been a very long time since I’ve done that. Believe you me, I’ve had some severe efforts I didn’t think I’d get through over the past few years. Instead, I choose to sit down temporarily or take a knee for a moment. In my mind, I have not given up and I am not beaten back by anything.
The dead and dying lie down. Roadkill doesn’t get back up. Someone encased in fear rolls up in the fetal position and cowers. A sowbug rolls up in a ball and hopes the predator goes away before someone steps on it. Victims end up on their backs, dead or alive. Dogs are subservient on their backs. Dead trees fall over and rot on the earth. I think you get the point.
In contrast, athletes “take a knee” in between efforts, soldiers kneel to rest and assess a situation, mom’s dress the kids on a knee then get up to get back on with the day, fighters kneel in between rounds. For many, the kneeling position is a position of reverence and recollection. In each of those examples, that person knows more is coming, they can’t give up, and they will get back up to continue on because they have to.
Of course someone will argue that historic rulers made their conquered foes kneel before them in a form of subservience, defeat and other similar situations of the like, but the difference being that those people were forced to adopt that position rather than choose it. Then there were those of legend who chose not to and paid with their lives, but they made history for their courage and heroism moreso than their conquerer did.
The strongest willed walk it off. Nothing puts them down. They may lean up against something, put their hands on their knees and suck wind, walk around with their arms over their heads breathing deeply, or stand tall while being hit by enemy fire like Lt. Michael Murphy (read the bio), but they are still in the fight despite a moment of recovery. There will be time to lay down later.
If nothing else remember, you can get knocked down, but you better get back up again. Don’t accept a defeatist posture, mentally or physically. It is my personal goal to stay up, in the fight, and ready for more after a moment of respite. If you wish to make yourself a stronger athlete and person, think about that the next time you wish to punch out and collapse. Instead, think about the fact you have just prevailed, you are stronger mentally and physically, and you are not dead. Accept a position that does not show defeat. Recover, then get back up and get back in the game.
“Numquam cede, numquam succumbe”
– Ian Carver